Rotherham: 12 more child sex abuse victims come forward
South Yorkshire chief constable confirms more investigations as he is told to answer MPs’ questions on scandal.
Twelve more victims of child sexual abuse in Rotherham have come forward in the past week since the publication of a damning report disclosing the grooming, exploitation and rape of at least 1,400 young people.
South Yorkshire Ch Con David Crompton told MPs the new victims had emerged as he confirmed his force is handling nine more “multiple victim, multiple offender” investigations covering hundreds of victims, including two in Rotherham.
In a preliminary appearance before the Commons home affairs select committee, Crompton said the specialist team dealing with child sex abuse cases had been expanded from three officers in 2010 to eight in 2012 and 62 now.
They had secured a total of 104 convictions since the start of 2013 and a further 40 suspects are on bail.
The chief constable also confirmed that he has commissioned an independent inquiry by an outside police force into the record of the South Yorkshire force in handling allegations of child sexual exploitation over many years.
The investigation will examine the role of the police and council and address any wrongdoings or failings, which will allow “appropriate action to be taken”.
He added: “We must give victims the confidence to come forward in the knowledge that all agencies will listen, will act, provide appropriate support, and relentlessly pursue those who offend against our young people.” The move failed to impress MPs who asked Crompton why he had not called in the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
They told him he would be recalled to give detailed evidence next week alongside the beleaguered South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, Shaun Wright, who indicated on Tuesday that he will not stand for re-election in 2016.
Crompton promised to answer questions about specific failures detailed in the report, including why South Yorkshire officers arrested an 11-year-old victim instead of her abusers and why an officer described the rape of a 12-year-old girl by several men as “entirely consensual”.
Crompton told the committee’s chair he had no intention to resign over the scandal. “The report concludes that things have been much better recently and we can continue to improve on that.”
The home secretary, Theresa May, met Prof Alexis Jay, the author of the report detailing the scale of the abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, after telling the Commons that the government was considering an inspection of Rotherham council. May told MPs the probe was needed following concerns of “inadequate scrutiny by councillors, institutionalised political correctness and covering up information and the failure to take action against gross misconduct.”
May was responding to an urgent Commons question from the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, who pressed her to make it mandatory to report concerns about child sex abuse. Labour suspended four councillors on Tuesday who had been in positions of responsiblity on Rotherham council at the time of the abuse.
May confirmed that mandatory reporting was being looked at but warned that it could lead to a sharp rise in unjustified reports and diminish the ability to deal with those which were well founded.
She told the Commons: “Like the rest of this House, I was appalled to read about these victims and the horrific experiences to which they were subjected.
“Many also suffered the injustice of seeing their cries for help ignored and the perpetrators not yet brought to justice. There can be no excuse for that.”
May said Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, was minded to order an investigation into Rotherham, and into whether it is complying with its best practice duty.
She said: “I am clear that cultural concerns – both the fear of being seen as racist, and the frankly disdainful attitude to some of our most vulnerable children – must never stand in the way of child protection. We know that child sexual exploitation happens in all communities. There is no excuse for it in any of them. And there is never any excuse for failing to bring its perpetrators to justice.”
Cooper agreed that race, ethnicity or community relations should not be used as an excuse not to investigate and punish sex offenders. May did not name a new chair to the overarching inquiry into the authorities’ handling of child sex abuse over several decades.
The inquiry was announced in July, only for its chair, Lady Butler-Sloss, to step down a few days later over a possible conflict of interest.
- The Guardian,